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Supporting Start-Ups With Connections, Advice and Caffeine - NYTimes.com

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Lauren Cannon was clearly nervous as she started a carefully prepared presentation about her start-up, PackSack, which makes a reusable grocery bag that folds into itself for storing. Just 22, Ms. Cannon was speaking to a forum of 20 entrepreneurs in a conference room at Co-Merge, a sleekly outfitted co-working space in downtown San Diego. She talked about her market research, her decision to manufacture in Mexico and her pricing.

After the presentation she took questions. A man sitting near the door volunteered to connect Ms. Cannon with a buyer at a local supermarket chain. One of the event’s organizers, Jody Greene, who helped found Chic CEO, an online resource for female entrepreneurs, suggested testing the price at a local farmers market. With time running out, Jerry Hall, the event’s other organizer and founder of GovAlert, a tool for tracking issues as they move through local government agencies, asked Ms. Cannon: “Is there a next step you’d like help with?”

This is the San Diego chapter of 1 Million Cups, a two-year-old program that supports entrepreneurs, is run by entrepreneurs and is popping up in cities across the country. It is administered by Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation, an affiliate of the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., and it is the brainchild of Nate Olson, a specialist in entrepreneurship at Kauffman, and Cameron Cushman, a manager in entrepreneurship.